Monday, February 23, 2015

'American Sniper' Snubbed

Chris Kyle

As most moviegoers have done in the last month, I went to see 'American Sniper' in theaters. I knew a little bit about Chris Kyle, but not a lot. I had heard he survived four tours of duty in Iraq only to be gunned down by a fellow veteran here at home. The tragedy of the situation stuck with me, but I had largely forgotten the story.

I am now covering the trial of Eddie Ray Routh for and am well informed now about the horrific details of Chris Kyle's death. This blog is not ALL about the trial, but also about the movie, how it was received, and the outcome of the Oscars. It's a long one, so hang in there!

The movie itself was an emotional roller coaster for me. I felt the suspense of every shot taken by Kyle. I felt Taya's feeling of being a single parent while married, as I too have raised children with a husband who was away (not in war), but being Mom and Dad both is a hard job. I can't imagine her feeling of knowing her husband was in a war zone and every day could be the day she learned something tragic had happened to him.

As with every war movie, you feel the brotherhood that is so strong among those who serve in a war zone. You understand how Chris, in knowing he was good at what he did, felt his place was in Iraq, on a rooftop, guarding those on the ground as they carried out their missions. While home, he failed to "be home". His heart was in Iraq. I suppose it's something those of us who never served will understand.

Bradley Cooper was nothing short of amazing in portraying Chris Kyle. He underwent a physical transformation that included taking in 6000 calories a day, packing on 39 lbs of muscle, working out for five hours a day, and all within three months. Aside from the physical challenges to transform into Chris Kyle, Cooper had to work weekends on the shooting range, perfecting all the technical aspects of being a sniper to make the movie even halfway believable. Cooper was a natural and was quickly knocking out targets from as far as 800 yards away. Cooper immersed himself in the role and didn't leave a stone unturned when it came to perfecting Chris. Chris's wife, Taya, was blown away by Coopers performance, even saying she forgot she was watching an actor play her husband at times.
Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle

While we know a few things were added in for drama; Kyle never shot a child, the 'Butcher of Baghdad' was never a top priority for his unit, nor was the sniper depicted in the movie. The sniper did exist, but again, was loosely mentioned in Chris' autobiography, 'American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History, which he wrote shortly before his death.

And, don't get me started on the mechanical baby. That baby was the worst fake baby in all of movie history. The day of filming, one baby had a fever and the backup didn't show. They were forced to improvise with this robot baby. But still, I had a good laugh about it during the film.

What really made me sick was the reaction from certain Hollywood personalities who made smart ass comments about snipers in general and quickly backtracked with a, "You misunderstood me" apology the day after the internet backlash flooded their Twitters. I knew very quickly this movie wouldn't be an Oscar hopeful. Don't misunderstand me. I have friends who are celebrities and I don't categorize actors or actresses in general as jerks who love to protest a war. Even I never agreed with the war in Iraq. Ever. But, I fully respected and admired the brave men and women who answered the call to go there on behalf of our awesome country. I grieved for two friends who were killed there and one friend who was injured.

It seems that because Chris Kyle was a sniper, and a damn good one, some saw him as a bad man. A man who loved to kill. A man who chose to keep going back for more. The man with the most confirmed kills in US history was evil to some people who sit behind a computer and write opinions, (hey, just like me), about a man who served our country overseas and here at home. Except, their comments portray him as a "coward", as Michael Moore indicated. That was the first time it occurred to me that this movie likely didn't stand a change during award season. And, it occurred to me that some people have no clue what it must be like to be in a war. They sit in their mansions and live far away from the rooftops and foxholes of Iraq.

Just as a tweeter last night said, one notable actor didn't clap at all when 'American Sniper' was introduced as a Best Picture nominee and many looked at their agents to see if it was okay to clap. The irony of it all is several years ago, in the thick of the fight, a lot of Oscar winners thanked the men and women serving. Now, they're hesitant to clap for a movie about a man who killed in a war where it was kill or be killed. Alas, it won an Oscar for sound. If there was an Oscar for being classy, we all know who wouldn't get it.

Who's not clapping?

After getting out of the service, Kyle found comfort in assisting wounded veterans by taking them out, talking to them, and occasionally taking them to a shooting range. Some would say this is a bad idea. Maybe they're right. We all see how it ended. But to categorize every man or woman with PTSD as a possible murderer is beyond insulting. Those who were helped by Chris say that doing those things made them feel good again. It may have been the one thing they were good at and never thought they'd be able to do again. He touched lives. He found his purpose after the war and beyond his family.

It just so happened that Chris was approached by Eddie Ray Routh's mother in the parking lot of Chris' children's school, where she was an employee. She told of her son, an ex-Marine, and how he had PTSD. She had heard so many good things about Chris helping men like her son. He said, "I will do anything in my power to help your son", and instructed her to leave Eddie's phone number in his kid's backpack. She did. But that day, she left out some VERY important details that proved to be fatal to Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield. The fact that her son had been hospitalized multiple times for psychotic episodes and that she was so scared of him that she had all of the guns removed from her home after he threatened to kill the entire family and himself. She left out that he was a habitual drug user, often smoking "wet" marijuana (dipped in formaldehyde). These are all red flags that were never shared with Chris or Chad, making them sitting ducks that day.

Eddie Ray Routh: Then and Now

On that fateful day, Eddie Routh and his uncle smoked what is believed to be "wet" marijuana and drank whiskey. Routh's uncle testified that he heard a loud truck roll up and Eddie went to see who was there. The uncle heard, "Hi, I'm Chris". And they were gone. Testimony has answered a lot of questions for those following the case since the beginning.

Routh says that he was irritated because Kyle and Littlefield didn't talk to him on the long ride to the shooting range. It irritated him they they stopped and got food since Routh told him he wasn't hungry. It made him mad that they bought him a meal anyway. Chris knew something was off. In the truck on the way to the range, Chris texted Chad, "This dude is straight up nuts". Chad responded, "He's behind me. Watch my six". (Watch my six is military talk for "Watch my back"). 

Routh told a psychiatrist that Chris and Chad were assassins and would kill him first so he had to take them out. Routh said he shot Chad Littlefield first, and as Chris went to turn, he shot Chris. Both men had guns on their waist fully loaded. Chris had a revolver that had been emptied just prior to the murders. With backs turned, he shot them both. My theory is one gun in each hand and shooting simultaneously. Chris was shot several times: once in the side of the head (jaw area) which damaged his spinal cord, and several more in the back. Those bullets in the back were fatal. The "instantly" fatal wound was through the shoulder and into the heart, severing the aorta. Chad was not dead after Routh shot Chris, and was "twitching" according to Routh, so he "finished him off" with a shot to the head.

Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield

The state's psychologists accuse Routh of faking schizophrenia and psychosis as a defense. We do know that "wet" marijuana can cause a drug induced psychosis that can last for a long time. And, we do know that doctors doubt that Routh ever suffered from PTSD. His duties in Iraq never took him off of the base. And, when he said he helped scoop rotting bodies into mass graves in Haiti, he was lying. He went off the ship twice... to get his paycheck. He was never in a situation that would produce PTSD, according to multiple doctors, and, from his service records as well.

Jealousy. That's what it could boil down to. Routh felt he didn't get the respect he deserved after his service was over. He never got to do the jobs he wanted to do in the military. He was an armorer. He fixed guns and guarded prisoners. Could it be that the decorated war hero, Chris Kyle, who lived nearby was seen as something he wanted to be? Routh is charged with the two murders. No death penalty is sought. If convicted, it's either due to insanity or just guilty. Insanity means you know what you are doing at the time of the murders. Such as when Routh went to his uncle's and sister's house to show off his new truck (Chris' truck), and telling his sister, "I traded my soul for a truck". Knowing is locking yourself in that truck and not surrendering to police, only to give chase. Knowing is what Routh said to several Texas Rangers that night, "I know what I did was wrong". 

In the end, Routh will never be a free man. Nor should he. In the end, two men were taken from their wives and kids. Two men who just wanted to help. The verdict is near. The pain will never end for the Littlefield's and for those who knew, loved, served with, and were changed by Chris Kyle. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Flying The Friendly Skies?

In the last six months, I have traveled a lot. I have spent countless hours in a terminal watching my flight delay time increase minute to minute knowing my connection is shot. I've had flights cancelled ten minutes before boarding.  I've stood in long security lines only to have my boobs frisked, and they didn't even have the decency to buy me a drink first. I've dealt with  grumpy airport staff who give off the vibe that they would rather be having a root canal than check the validity of your driver's license. I've shared the airport with outright rude passengers that make me wonder how people can be so miserable all the time. I guess they get their frustration out IN the airport and I am doing it here. I've had flight attendants who gave me the death stare because I asked for one more creamer for my coffee.

(The all to familiar notification on my phone when traveling)

(The worst thing you can see while waiting in the terminal to board) 

Don't get me wrong, I have had some amazingly fun times on the pressurized metal tubes and have met some really cool people. I sat next to DMX on a flight from Washington, DC to Greenville, SC (my hometown). I had a seatmate who is the drummer for Edwin McCain, (I'm looking at you, Tez). I've had flight attendants who made my trip so much fun with their cheery attitude and wanting to make the flight fun for all. I've had pilots who were intrigued with my Google Glass and were happy to try them on and snap a cool picture for my 6-year-old son. Yes, nice people are all around, too.

(My seat mate, DMX) 
(My favorite seat mate, Tez Sherard, Edwin McCain's drummer)

A good or bad seat mate can make or break your flight. I have had both. The good seat mate is someone you can engage in a fun conversation with and make your flight fly by. I talk a lot but I always read the people I am sitting next to. If they say a quick, "Hello", and quickly put their ear buds in, I pop my Beats on my head and get lost in iTunes. We say, "Goodbye", at landing, and that's that. Some talk your ear off non-stop as you look at your lonely headphones and wonder, would it be incredibly rude to just put them on, close your eyes, and tilt your head back. 

I would have to say that the worst seat mate is the one with no regard for your comfort during your time sitting 4 inches away from them for hours. By this, I mean the people whose breath smell like they ate a whole onion directly prior to boarding. Or, the ones who spent the hour before boarding at the bar downing Jack Daniels. It costs $1.54 to buy some breath mints at the Hudson News that's in every airport across the country. And, don't forget to shower before you fly or at least put some deodorant on. I sat next to a guy who was very nice looking, but smelled as if he had just spent a year in the desert in the middle of summer. I literally had to spray breath spray on my finger and rub it under my nose.  

Moving away from the people you share your travel experiences with and moving on to the airlines themselves. What happened, airline industry? I remember when flying was a pleasure. It was something people looked forward to just as much as the destination they were going to. You got served with a hot meal that you wouldn't eat if  you were on the ground, but in the air, it may as well be a $300 a head meal in a fine dining institute. Don't even act like you didn't get excited when you saw the food cart come rolling down the aisle. Now, you pay $8 for packaged crackers, some trail mix, and a piece of chocolate.

Speaking of money, flying is nothing short of highway robbery. Yes, I know some will say I should drive or take a Greyhound, but those people clearly haven't flown lately. First your fare will be ridiculous and sometimes it makes no sense. For example, I needed to fly to Philadelphia. The choices were Greenville to Philadelphia, $398 & Greenville, SC to NYC via Philadelphia, $220. I thought  I would one-over the airline. I decided to book the Greenville to NYC via Philly and just hop off in Philadelphia. NYC was where I would end up and fly out of, but I needed to go to Philly first. I hopped off the plane and smiled as I knew I had saved over $100. However, the day I was to leave from NYC to come home, I got this message as I checked in:

It said my reservation was, "Out of sync" and I needed to call the airlines. I did so and was floored in the process. Apparently, hopping off your flight is considered abandoning your itinerary. The result? A $200 change fee and the difference in fare, which is astronomical the day of. Well played, US Airways, well played. Lesson learned.

Baggage fees will eat you alive. When I first started traveling to NYC last year, I brought two check-in bags for a 3 day trip each time. Hey, I am a woman. I prepare for the worst. After a few months of almost having to take out a 2nd mortgage on my house, I downsized to one.  $60 each way adds up fast. Now, I am the master of the carry on bag.

An eye opening experience came to me two weeks ago. My 2-year-old came down with a nasty stomach bug on a Tuesday. I added it up and figured I would be full blown sick by that Thursday night and unable to fly to Colorado that Friday. My prediction came true. I called the airline Friday morning explaining that I was vomiting like a fraternity brother and I wanted to do the responsible thing and travel at another time. I didn't think it was fair to be actively vomiting on a booked flight with over 200 people, exposing them all to the incapacitating illness that would likely ruin their vacation. Us Airways informed me that I could cancel, but I would have to pay the $200 change fee to re-book my flight at a later date and any change in fares. I protested in between pukes. I told the agent I would be glad to bring a huge garbage bag to the terminal with me and apologize for exposing everyone to my illness as we boarded. US Air didn't flinch. They were more than ready to infect the entire airplane to collect $200 from me. I decided to not be selfish and fly sick, so I stayed home. I will owe them $200 to re-book in addition to the over $500 in fares I paid for when I was healthy.

Will airlines get any better? I don't think so. The pilots and flight attendants hands are tied. I don't blame them for the conditions on board the aircraft. You get a free drink on all flights and that's about it. The planes are typically nasty for the most part and they're are all pretty much run down. I ripped my new jacket and scratched my arm on this broken armrest which US Air didn't feel responsible for. Thank god I didn't get Teatnus:

I could go on and on about the pitfalls of airports and flying, but that would require a book deal and about 1,000 pages to play with. I guess when it comes down to it, when your wheels touch the ground at your destination, the hassle, and the empty wallet is of little concern. I've had a blast traveling. I've met amazing people, seen fantastic concerts, and made memories that will last me a lifetime.

 (Neil Young at Carnegie Hall - amazing show!)
 (Allie Mills, mom from 'The Wonder Years' at a subway station on Upper West Side) 

 (Cyndi Lauper concert in Englewood, NJ) 

(Nellie Furtado and I after Cyndi Lauper and Friends concert, NYC) 

(P!nk at Barclay's Center, Brooklyn)

(This view may just be worth all the money and hassle)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Mariano Rivera's Last Yankee Home Game With Google Glass

Sometimes the stars align and things happen that are nothing short of magic. I was in New York City a few weeks ago and I had the chance to see Mo's last home game as a New York Yankee. I am a huge Yankee fan. I cut my toe the other day and I pretty sure there was a bluish tint to the color of my blood. Ok, maybe not, but you get the point. I have said the entire season that I would give anything to be sitting in that stadium as Mo took the mound one last time. Well, it happened. To explain how I got to that point is another blog in itself, but let's just say that at the very last minute, I had my Yankee tickets in hand, and was on the D train to the Bronx.

 I exited the station and could feel the energy of Yankee Stadium hit me like a train. It was as if we were in the World Series (Not this year, so this was as close as we were going to get). That was the atmosphere. It was electric. We all knew we were coming to say goodbye to the best closer in the history of the game, and future Hall Of Famer. We were watching a man come back from an almost career ending ACL tear. He came back to finish it this year. His way.

A man like Mariano Rivera, to me, is a true role model. He's humble, he's a family man, he's played with integrity, and has been a consistent standout on the field. How many times have you read a bad headline about Mo? Probably none. He loves the game. It shows every time he steps on the field. I could go on and on.

The game was exciting, but we all knew what we were waiting for. The call to the bullpen, one last time, make the call to bring Mo out. The time came. The crowd rose to their feet. The sounds was almost deafening. Then, he emerged.

One last trot to the mound. You could see he was taking it all in. Tens of thousands were on their feet, chanting, "We Want Mo".  I had goosebumps.

You have to wonder what was going through his mind at this moment.

A few warm up pitches

The time came for the last pitch. Mo stood on the mound for a second, the crowd on their feet, a roar filled the air. He gently tossed the ball a few times.

After doing his job and giving the fans one last glimpse of near perfection on the mound at Yankee Stadium, Rivera's last at-home game was over.

I love the above photo. The three Yankees who have been there the longest, Jeter, Rivera, and Pettitt (who also retired), went to the mound to hug their teammate. Pettitt was content to stand aside and let Mo have his well deserved moment.

And a video shot with Google Glass (not the best quality distance wise but gives you a nice idea of the atmosphere).

Meeting on the Mound

Rivera and Jeter hug

 Mo tips his hat to the fans and the players. 

 Mo wiped away tears as he exited the field

 Rivera scoops up dirt from the mound

As a woman, I felt the emotion of the moment, and I don't think that was lost on any man in the stands. I saw grown men wiping away tears. Probably because we know we're screwed now, but still, tears. :)

I am so proud as a Yankees fan to have been there that night. I don't know what Rivera plans to do in retirement, but I know we haven't seen the last of him. I hope he enjoys the time with his beautiful family and knows that he has inspired a lot of young players, new fans, old fans, and has encapsulated what a true baseball player really is. 

Good luck, Mo. We will not only miss your positive force on the roster, but also the feeling knowing when you're on the mound, and it's a close one, that we'll be okay that game. 

(All photos are copyright of Jennifer McKelvey. Please do not use without permission). 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Monday, September 30, 2013

Just a quick update to share a local news station, Fox Carolina, and the story they did on me being a Glass Explorer. I will share the interview clip tomorrow when it becomes available!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Strolling Around Manhattan With Google Glass

I had to go to New York City last week for business but I was able to mix a little pleasure in there. I grabbed my Google Glass to document my adventures in the city.

I don't know if those who have Glass have had the same experiences as I have had out and about with them. Either people whisper, "She has Google Glass", or they'll just come right up to you and ask about it. I love people who do that. I like to talk to anyone who will talk back. Further, I like to see the excitement on people's faces when they try Glass on for the first time.

My experiences with people approaching me about my Glass happened immediately upon entering the airport here in Greenville, SC. I had two Marines who were about to ship out asking to try them on. They were really excited and we talked about how Google Glass could change their jobs for the better. I'm sure you all have a few of these photos; the ones where you're telling someone how to take a picture. Here is one of those:

This is in Charlotte. I was delayed by 3 hours. There was a Federal Marshall who was intrigued with Glass.

This was on the ferry from Liberty Island to Manhattan. A group of men were talking about Google Glass and didn't notice I had them on. A friend overheard their conversation and I walked over to share with them. :) They were amazed. (No, I was not about to go all Mike Tyson on him although it looks like I have my dukes up).

I loved having Google Glass while I walked around in NY. I was able to still see where I was going while getting some nice footage. Below is a short video at the 9/11 Memorial.

I love the clarity of the video and the audio is not bad at all. The only little thing I noted is how after I scale the Freedom Tower and go back down to the water, there's a short blackout with Glass as it adjusts to the light.

On a side note, and the most important point, I really was moved at my time spent here. I had been to New York shortly after 9/11. In fact, it was still smoldering and recovery was still well underway. I came back later on when the cleanup was over and it was just a an empty space and it was almost hard to picture such horror taking place there. But, I could feel the weight in my heart. I could see the images that played over and over on the news. I could see the faces of those who lost their lives and the faces full of grief from those left behind.

I went here last week with a friend who had a very beautiful way of explaining how they felt when they visited the memorial. If you stand right beside the edge, you can feel a rising of air. It clearly feels as if the air calmly floats up. It's almost, in a poetic way, as if the souls are rising. Rising above the horror and the terror of that fateful day. The explanation of that from my friend gave me cold chills and peace as I looked at the countless names of people I never met, but grieved for.

The reminder that, even in times of great loss and sorrow, life goes on, is the new Freedom Tower. It's symbolic to me in that it's like a Phoenix rising from the ashes. Anytime this tower was in my view, I stopped to look.

I went to Central Park, an oasis in the city. The green reminded me of home. If you've ever been there, you know that it's a nice break from the concrete jungle just outside the borders of the trees. There's also some beautiful spots to take photos. I snapped a few with Glass while there.

I love how the texture of the rock is captured in this shot as well as the clarity of everything in the photo.

This may be my favorite Central Park photo I took. You see the trees that line the city and you see the buildings towering over, reminding you that you're in the middle of Manhattan.

I also took an afternoon to go visit the Statue of Liberty. I took a video of the view:

And, a photo!

My time in New York went by way too fast for my liking, but all good trips have to end at some point. I loaded my luggage into a taxi and told him to take me to LaGuardia. I got a few shots of NY on my way out.

Overall, having Glass with me really enhanced the post-trip reminiscing a fantastic long weekend in the greatest city in America (besides Greenville). I got the shots I could have gotten with my phone or camera, but would have missed the view in doing so. This is my major love affair with Google Glass. The hands-free option has me sold completely. Battery life is still leaving much to be desired for me and I hope a software update in the future will solve that problem. And, off topic, I lost my Glass charger when I changed rooms at my hotel. Any micro-USB works and I have had no problem charging until I can get a replacement.

I am really excited to take Google Glass to Disney World when I take my three kids in the hopefully not so distant future! Capturing their faces as they roam a place they love will be priceless.

Goodbye, New York. See you soon!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Camera On Google Glass: The Good And Bad.

I've been overall very impressed with the photo quality of Google Glass. In the right light, the photo is, in my opinion, comparable to photos taken with my Nikon. The colors are rich and the textures are captured nicely.

This is where I use Google Glass the most. I take lots of photos and videos of my kids. Yesterday, we went on a hike and I brought Glass along.

It was cool to be able to walk around with three kids in tow and film our little adventure. I have a 2-year-old, so she needs a hand on her at all times. I couldn't have done that with a phone in my hand recording and still get the shot I wanted. The convenience of Glass was awesome. I took a few videos along the way:

The one issue I see with Glass is that where there is direct sunlight on the subject, there's almost a glow that comes off of them and the colors wash out. I know this isn't a problem unique to Glass. I wish there were something in Glass that could adjust to extreme brightness and even out the sunlight. If you watch the video, you will almost see a glow coming off of my son's bright yellow shirt. While it's nothing that ruins the video, it lessens the quality of the video for me. There is a shimmer of light coming off of him. It reminded me of how the vampires in 'Twilight' glow in the sun. (Yes, I took my niece to see the movie. No, I didn't enjoy it).

I also wonder if the glowing issue was just the scene - we're in a darker area of the woods with a burst of light coming in directly where my kids were standing? I've taken other outdoor videos that have been just fine, as you can see below:

Another thought I had yesterday was how it would be cool for Glass to have something in the actual glass part that is like the Transition lenses. As you go out into the light, it dims. I know we have the Maui Jim clip-on sunglass frames, but I didn't want to use those since it was darker in places we were in the woods. I don't know if having something like this built in would work, but it's a thought. I have found that the screen is hard to see in bright sunlight or bright rooms. If I do not have my frames on, I find myself holding a hand up in front of Glass to better see. Below is a photo of how Transition glasses work.

On another subject, I still cannot tether Glass to my Samsung Galaxy S4. I had to go buy a portable internet device to connect and am paying a monthly fee for 5G of data. I still fully believe that, when they're released publicly, they need to be stand-alone. I don't think many people will necessarily want to eat into their phone data plan to connect Glass. I am lucky enough to have unlimited monthly data, but a lot of people do not.   

I am very excited that Google has announced a stand-alone Glass App Store. Mashable: Google Glass To Have App Store  This is a great thing for Glass and reinerates the stand alone aspect of Google Glass. The fact that you may not have to depend on your phone for anything will make Glass more marketable. I wouldn't want to buy a product that only does a portion of what I need it to do. I don't want to have to drag my phone out of my purse to use and app that Glass doesn't support. I'm excited to get a peek at the app store once Googles rolls that out. I do think that gaming will be quite difficult on Glass, so I'll be interested to see if Google develops games unique to Glass.

I am excited to see the development of Glass before it "goes live".  The cool thing is that, as a Glass Explorer, we get to watch the evolution of a revolutionary product. I do know that the final version of Google Glass will probably be much different than the ones we have now. The nice thing about this blog is the interaction I get on Google + with other Explorers and how they often times confirm my opinions or even share tips and tricks to solve problems I may be having. There's a lot of changes that need to happen before it is ready for prime time, but I know Google will release a stellar product in the end! 

Keep on keeping on, Glassmates! 


Some say that their Glass does dim in the sunlight. Mine does not. I wonder if this is a flaw in my Glass? I'll have them checked out when I am in NY next week!